FANUC says ‘commitment’ is needed to change UK culture around automation

At Smart Factory Expo (5-6 June 2024, NEC Birmingham), FANUC UK named ‘commitment’ as the number one driver to help inspire a change in culture towards robotics and automation among British manufacturers.

FANUC’s Head of UK Sales Oliver Selby gave the keynote speech at the event’s Automation & Robotics Acceleration Symposium and said a change in culture was needed to ensure continued UK manufacturing success, calling for commitment towards skills and education across all levels – from students to C-Suite – as well as commitment to a long-term automation investment strategy.

“Despite being the eighth largest manufacturing nation, we are 25th in terms of robotics adoption,” said Oliver. “Just imagine what we could achieve if we raised our automation levels.”

Emulating best practice

Citing a difference in attitude towards investment in robotics between the UK and many of the leading automated nations, Oliver believes the UK has much to learn in terms of best practice: “In countries such as Germany, Japan and the US, automation is prioritised from the outset of any new manufacturing project – it’s not an afterthought,” he stated. “And in Scandinavia, a realistic view on payback periods (as well as a realisation that total cost of ownership is a better measure of value than ROI) sees companies prioritising a long-term investment strategy around automation. Of course, government support also plays a large part, and in this regard, we are playing catch-up. However, it’s not too late to make a change if all stakeholders work together.”

A focus on learning

Increasing education around automation – at every level – is also crucial to boosting our robotics uptake. “Within firms, particularly SMEs, it’s essential that a range of staff are trained and educated on the benefits that the right automation solution can deliver,” said Oliver. “Whether that’s the finance department, engineering or operational staff, management, board members and even the owner, everyone has something to learn.”

WorldSkills UK qualifiers

This commitment to education also extends to inspiring the next generation of engineers and ensuring they are equipped with the skills that will be needed by modern manufacturers. To this end, FANUC has partnered with WorldSkills UK for fourth time, in the Industrial Robotics competition. The qualifying rounds for this year’s contest took place live at Smart Factory Expo and saw the 12 highest ranking teams compete in a 3.5-hour challenge to pick and place 10 cylinders, following a pre-set robotic pathway.

“We are extremely proud of our partnership with WorldSkills UK and watching the talented young competitors complete the qualifying challenge was very rewarding,” said Oliver. “The five best teams will go on to compete in the WorldSkills UK final at the FANUC Open House event at our Coventry HQ in November, while the ultimate winners will have the chance to represent Squad UK in the global competition.”

Showcasing success

Attracting over 7,000 visitors on day one alone, Smart Factory Expo showcased the finest technologies and solutions available to manufacturers today. For FANUC, the event proved highly successful, bringing multiple new leads across sectors as diverse as medical, semi-conducting, bakery, confectionery and plastics.

“With over 35 system integrator partners, we are well placed to support manufacturing firms from every corner of industry,” added Ollie. “Our stand featured five of our key partners and enabled us to showcase the added value that FANUC can bring beyond supplying automation technology. The event was busy across both days and brought quality leads to our door, as well as allowing us to demonstrate the value of the WorldSkills UK initiative. We are already looking forward to what next year’s show will bring.”

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